Jan Leatham tries her hand at jewellery making with a workshop at the smiddy…
If you haven’t been up to Banff recently, it’s definitely worth a visit. The town’s regeneration scheme has resulted in several new businesses sited in renovated buildings. The Smiddy is set in a former blacksmiths which lay empty for 30 years and is now the second location for Vanilla Ink’s innovative jewellery making classes and workshops.
The Smiddy is a social enterprise, bringing opportunities for creativity and employment to young people in Scotland. It is also an airy, contemporary space with a great programme of classes. Resident silversmith Megan Falconer runs most of them, with visiting tutors in the summertime. You can learn to make everything from a spoon to your own wedding rings.
Some of the Smiddy’s most popular day courses are ring making workshops. You can make and etch a simple silver band or make a spinner ring. The Smiddy offers more in-depth jewellery making courses too, including the chance to learn stone-setting.
Some of the classes are run in conjunction with Duff House, Banff’s impressive 18th century William Adam mansion house just five minutes away. This partnership with Historic Environment Scotland offers extra scope for creativity as well as forging links between local businesses. This is particularly fitting as Banff has a long history of silversmithing, dating back to the 17th century, when wealthy surrounding estate owners headed to the town in winter time. A succession of 24 silversmiths worked in Banff over 200 years, producing mugs, plates and candlesticks for the fashionable party hosts of the time. Today you can learn to make a silver spoon at the Smiddy very similar to those popular back in the day, or commission a piece in gold or silver from the Smiddy’s craftspeople. They can also repair and remodel old items. This process always involves the customer as much as possible especially when the items have sentimental value.
I chose to try my hand at etching and creating
a simple silver band ring, drawing my inspiration from some of the patterns on
objects at Duff House. Megan is a patient teacher, which is essential when many
of the students are absolute beginners. She talked us through the fascinating
processes and painstaking techniques, from cutting and sanding, to etching and
polishing. Students have access to the full range of tools and equipment. If
you’ve ever wanted to create a special piece of jewellery for yourself or as a
gift, the Smiddy is a great place to learn. There are classes that last from a
couple of hours to a full day session. Book in to create a bangle, kilt pin or
of copper spoons or a pair of earrings.
This December, the Smiddy are hosting two bespoke festive classes, offering the opportunity to make handmade copper decorations, or a couple of copper napkin rings. Or if you’re looking for a festive get-together with a difference, why not give the Smiddy a call? They can host up to 8 people at a time for a couple of hours to a day, culminating in a unique, handmade piece to take home. Perfect for a special gift, or something you’ll treasure forever! Discover the full programme of classes and workshops at vanillainkthesmiddy.co.uk.